Image courtesy of Allen & Unwin
Note: With the Yanyuwa Families
Issue Details: First known date: 2010 2010
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

This is 'John Bradley's compelling account of three decades living with the Yanyuwa people of the Gulf of Carpentaria and of how the elders revealed to him the ancient songlines of their Dreaming.


At twenty John Bradley was sent to teach Aboriginal children in a school at remote Borroloola, on the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Australia. But it is the teacher who is educated by the Yanyuwa elders and their families. Over three decades he learns their language and their country, becoming intimately drawn into other ways of being, both practical and spiritual. With passion and pride they teach him their songlines, relating what they know and value - ancestors, kin, allegiances; places, plants, animals; seasons, ceremonies, stories - and the spirit that sustains all.


As we follow John Bradley on his journey, we begin to see that the songlines are keys to the authority and continuity held by Aboriginal Law. We begin to understand why, when country can no longer be sung, the Yanyuwa feel it so deeply. And what such loss means to us all' (publisher website, sighted 7/08/2010).

Notes

  • Dedication: This book has been written to the memory of all those Yanyuwa men and women who knew and loved their country and the kujika which still flows through it.

    In particular it is dedicated to the memory of DON MILLER (1937-1989), My kardirdi (uncle) and first teacher of Yanyuwa language, Law, ceremony and country,

    and

    JOHNSON TIMOTHY (1930-1994) my jababa (big brother), who quietly and with great dignity taught me about the Law that travels through the sea and from island to island.

    These words and thoughts are also dedicated to the memory of

    ASHER CAMERON-BRADLEY (1993-2006), my son who also sensed power and enchantment of Yanyuwa country and its songs. May his memory always be a blessing.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Crows Nest, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Allen and Unwin , 2010 .
      Image courtesy of Allen & Unwin
      Extent: xxiii, 303 p., [8] p. of platesp.
      Description: illus. (some col.), ports., maps
      ISBN: 9781742372419 (pbk.)

Works about this Work

"We Sing Our Law, Is That Still TEK?" : Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Can the West Come to Know? John Bradley , Stephen Johnson , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: PAN , no. 11 2014-2015; (p. 19-26)

'Throughout history, anthropologists have confronted a number of uncomfortable truths around the supposed nature of reality. The anthropological maxim, "through the study of others we learn more about ourselves" has been sorely tested en route. Arguably, this challenge reached culmination during the 1970s and 80s, with several prominent social commentators from Geertz to Clifford suggesting that anthropologists had, in both past and present, been much more concerned with the study of 'others' than of 'ourselves' (Nader 1964:289). In essence, this reflexive critique suggested that ethnographers were in the business of writing fiction and more insidiously came to the field equipped with a set of assumptions and presuppositions about the world in all its variety. These universal verities functioned to reduce all subjects of study into conformity with the observer's sense of what was real and of import and what was not and inconsequential.' (Publication summary)

The Politics of the Voice : Ethnographic Fetishism and Australian Literary Studies Richard Martin , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 13 no. 2 2013;
'The politics of representing Aboriginality often focuses on questions of authorship and appropriation. Much of this criticism rests on the simplistic assumption that texts created by collaboration and even uneven collaboration are not in some respects voiced by their subject or subjects. This paper discusses two popular texts about Aboriginal ceremonial songs or ‘songlines’ in order to challenge this assumption, reading Bill Harney with A. P. Elkin’s Songs of the Songmen: Aboriginal Myths Retold (1949), and John Bradley with Yanyuwa Families’ Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria (2010) as Aboriginal texts. These texts are particularly interesting insofar as they focus attention on the relationship between voice and text, as well as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, being the products of collaboration by the anthropologists Elkin and Bradley with, on the one hand, a non-Aboriginal ‘Protector’ and popular writer (Harney), and, on the other, the subjects of the ethnography themselves (that is Yanyuwa Families). As I argue, the shifting ways in which the songlines of northern Australia are voiced in Songs of the Songmen and Singing Saltwater Country provides insights into the politics of representing Aboriginality in Australia, and the forces that have historically affected it. The close analysis of these texts focuses attention on the role of ethnographic fetishism for the exotic and authentic within the changing context of cultural production in Australia.' (Author's abstract)
The Pleiades and the Dreamtime : An Aboriginal Women's Story and Other Ancient World Traditions Antonella Riem Natale , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Coolabah , no. 9 2012;
Introduction : Arnold Zable Arnold Zable , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Summer no. 205 2011; (p. 55)
Untitled Richard Martin , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: Aboriginal History , November no. 35 2011; (p. 215-217)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Untitled Luke Keogh , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Journal of Politics & History , September vol. 57 no. 3 2011; (p. 447-448)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
An Intimate Portrayal of Loss and Hope Nicolas Rothwell , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 7-8 August 2010; (p. 22-23)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography

As he moves through his academic life in busy Melbourne, anthropologist John Bradley holds the songlines of the coastal country around remote Borroloola in the forefront of his thoughts. In its tone of profound engagement it recalls the mid-century anthropologist Ted Strehlow; in its anguished explanation of the traps besetting contemporary Aboriginal societies, it comes from the same stable of thought as Peter Sutton's recent work.

'For the old keepers of the landscape, it seems clear the world is shrivelling, losing its resonance, precisely because the people who belonged to it are gone and the law is weakening' (pull quote).

Untitled Clive Tilsley , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Bookseller + Publisher Magazine , August vol. 90 no. 1 2010; (p. 45)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Untitled Lucy Clark , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Mail , 5 September 2010; (p. 17)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Non Fiction Fiona Capp , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 11 September 2010; (p. 24)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Books William Yeoman , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The West Australian , 2 October 2010; (p. 20-21)

— Review of I Came To Say Goodbye Caroline Overington 2010 single work novel ; Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
In Short : Fiction Bruce Elder , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 30-31 October 2010; (p. 35)

— Review of The Wonderful World of Dogs 2010 anthology prose extract ; The Captain's Year Ricky Ponting Geoff Armstrong 2010 single work autobiography ; Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Singing Saltwater Country Nonie Sharp , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Arena Magazine , October/November no. 108 2010; (p. 48-50)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Imperilled Songlines Frances Devlin-Glass , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Tintean : The Australian Irish Heritage Network , December vol. 14 no. 2010; (p. 31)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
An Intimate Portrayal of Loss and Hope Nicolas Rothwell , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 7-8 August 2010; (p. 22-23)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography

As he moves through his academic life in busy Melbourne, anthropologist John Bradley holds the songlines of the coastal country around remote Borroloola in the forefront of his thoughts. In its tone of profound engagement it recalls the mid-century anthropologist Ted Strehlow; in its anguished explanation of the traps besetting contemporary Aboriginal societies, it comes from the same stable of thought as Peter Sutton's recent work.

'For the old keepers of the landscape, it seems clear the world is shrivelling, losing its resonance, precisely because the people who belonged to it are gone and the law is weakening' (pull quote).

Untitled Clive Tilsley , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Bookseller + Publisher Magazine , August vol. 90 no. 1 2010; (p. 45)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Untitled Lucy Clark , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Mail , 5 September 2010; (p. 17)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Non Fiction Fiona Capp , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 11 September 2010; (p. 24)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Books William Yeoman , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The West Australian , 2 October 2010; (p. 20-21)

— Review of I Came To Say Goodbye Caroline Overington 2010 single work novel ; Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
In Short : Fiction Bruce Elder , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 30-31 October 2010; (p. 35)

— Review of The Wonderful World of Dogs 2010 anthology prose extract ; The Captain's Year Ricky Ponting Geoff Armstrong 2010 single work autobiography ; Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Singing Saltwater Country Nonie Sharp , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Arena Magazine , October/November no. 108 2010; (p. 48-50)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Imperilled Songlines Frances Devlin-Glass , 2010 single work review
— Appears in: Tintean : The Australian Irish Heritage Network , December vol. 14 no. 2010; (p. 31)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Untitled Richard Martin , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: Aboriginal History , November no. 35 2011; (p. 215-217)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Untitled Luke Keogh , 2011 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Journal of Politics & History , September vol. 57 no. 3 2011; (p. 447-448)

— Review of Singing Saltwater Country : Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria John Bradley 2010 single work autobiography
Introduction : Arnold Zable Arnold Zable , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Summer no. 205 2011; (p. 55)
The Pleiades and the Dreamtime : An Aboriginal Women's Story and Other Ancient World Traditions Antonella Riem Natale , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Coolabah , no. 9 2012;
The Politics of the Voice : Ethnographic Fetishism and Australian Literary Studies Richard Martin , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 13 no. 2 2013;
'The politics of representing Aboriginality often focuses on questions of authorship and appropriation. Much of this criticism rests on the simplistic assumption that texts created by collaboration and even uneven collaboration are not in some respects voiced by their subject or subjects. This paper discusses two popular texts about Aboriginal ceremonial songs or ‘songlines’ in order to challenge this assumption, reading Bill Harney with A. P. Elkin’s Songs of the Songmen: Aboriginal Myths Retold (1949), and John Bradley with Yanyuwa Families’ Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria (2010) as Aboriginal texts. These texts are particularly interesting insofar as they focus attention on the relationship between voice and text, as well as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, being the products of collaboration by the anthropologists Elkin and Bradley with, on the one hand, a non-Aboriginal ‘Protector’ and popular writer (Harney), and, on the other, the subjects of the ethnography themselves (that is Yanyuwa Families). As I argue, the shifting ways in which the songlines of northern Australia are voiced in Songs of the Songmen and Singing Saltwater Country provides insights into the politics of representing Aboriginality in Australia, and the forces that have historically affected it. The close analysis of these texts focuses attention on the role of ethnographic fetishism for the exotic and authentic within the changing context of cultural production in Australia.' (Author's abstract)
"We Sing Our Law, Is That Still TEK?" : Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Can the West Come to Know? John Bradley , Stephen Johnson , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: PAN , no. 11 2014-2015; (p. 19-26)

'Throughout history, anthropologists have confronted a number of uncomfortable truths around the supposed nature of reality. The anthropological maxim, "through the study of others we learn more about ourselves" has been sorely tested en route. Arguably, this challenge reached culmination during the 1970s and 80s, with several prominent social commentators from Geertz to Clifford suggesting that anthropologists had, in both past and present, been much more concerned with the study of 'others' than of 'ourselves' (Nader 1964:289). In essence, this reflexive critique suggested that ethnographers were in the business of writing fiction and more insidiously came to the field equipped with a set of assumptions and presuppositions about the world in all its variety. These universal verities functioned to reduce all subjects of study into conformity with the observer's sense of what was real and of import and what was not and inconsequential.' (Publication summary)

Last amended 7 Jul 2016 08:45:26
Subjects:
  • Borroloola, McArthur River area, Gulf - Barkly Tablelands area, Central Northern Territory, Northern Territory,
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